Author's Note: This interview was conducted the evening of February 20, 2003. Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers were setting up for that night's show. We at Las Vegas Blues and Caught Live Too! would like to thank Jimmy for taking time from his busy schedule. We also wish to thank Mark Stutso and Jimmy Carpenter for setting up the interview, and Bob Formica for all his help and kindness.
DB: What made you decide to leave the Nighthawks are go out on your own?
JT: We were doing over three hundred nights a year, which was exhausting. It left very little room for rehearsal or regeneration of material. We had been pretty much sticking with the same game plan for quite a few years at that point, it kind of got to the point where I could do the show in my sleep. I wasn't getting any younger, and I began to think while watching people like George Thorogood come whizzing past me, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all these people who were relatively unknown suddenly becoming incredibly famous. I thought if I'm going to take a shot at this on my own, I pretty much had to start doing it now. So it was a very heart wrenching decision because I'd put quite a few years into the project. It was like leaving a family. We were a very close knit bunch. The decision making process took me quite a long time to get where I could give them my notice. It was not the most comfortable thing for me to do. I figured that I owed it to myself that if I was going to move on, that I had to do it soon.
DB: Have you played any shows with them their 30th Anniversary Tour?
JT: Yes, actually we're doing reunion kind of shows, back together again, and having a blast doing it. It's like riding a bike, it doesn't go away. It's the same feeling up there, and it's wonderful.
DB: You recently put out a record with John Mooney, and one with Tab Benoit, Charlie Musselwhite, and Double Trouble. Who else would you like to do a record with?
JT: I would really love at some point to do a record with Duke (Robillard). I think we would have alot of fun doing somthing like that.
DB: Duke seems to be more of a jazz player. Would your styles mesh?
JT: That is why I think this would be interesting. Don't think that old Duke can't rock. He could put that thing in high gear as easily as anybody. He's a total chameleon, the guy can assimilate any approach or style. I used to see him with Roomful (of Blues). One night he would be T-Bone Walker, then next night I'd come back and he'd be Buddy Guy, the next he'd be BB King, and it was that way all night long.
DB: When is your new CD coming out?
JT: The release date is tentatively sometime in April.
DB: Who were your biggest influences?
JT: My lawyer and my accountant. I get asked that question all the time, and my response is almost always the same. Everybody I ever listened to were influences one way or the other. Even if it was just figuring out what not to do. That's the way I think you have to approach it, you have to take what you can from everybody's performance whether it be a positive or a negative. Say to yourself "I'm not going to do that, but I'd really like to be able to do that."
DB: What made you pick up the guitar?
JT: I was taking piano lesson and I hit the age of 13, and raging hormones because evident. I realized that I was never going to get lucky playing piano. Every girl was swooning over the guitar players. I love the sound of the instrument, the guitar just jazzed me. There was nothing like the sound of an electric guitar with a good bunch of reverb on it. Even as a child, when I would hear "Peter Gunn," that stuff just made me go oooh, what's that noise and how can I make it?
DB: Who was the first person or bands you saw live?
SJK: It would have to be the thing that actually made me want to do this. In seventh grade, I went to my first dance in the gymnasium. There was a group of seniors that had a band called "The Minus Four." They were just a regular garage band, playing all the "Louie Louie"'s and that stuff. I never forgot the singer, whose name I still remember, John Harberson. He was up there with one of those electrovoice microphones. He was screaming his head off, and his veins were popping out of his neck. The guitar players were turned up real loud, so you couldn't really distinguish anything, because it was in a gymnasium. It was the coolest thing that I'd ever seen. That made me say I want to do that.
DB: My first show was different. I had my uncle take me to Woodstock when I was only eight.
JT: I was actually at Bonnie Raitt's parents' home, visiting her brother who was a friend of mine from school. While Woodstock was going on, I was in Harrison NY. I wasn't that far away, and I didn't even know it was going on until I got home. Bonnie's brother David and I, thirty years after our high school experience, actually did make a record together. It's on Blue Rock'it Records. It's called "That's It." It was he and I, and all the guys in the band were or are members of Tower of Power. Bonnie also makes a couple of guest appearances on it.It was the pipedream that finally came true after 30 years. We always talked about it in school, wouldn't it be cool to make a record one day? Of course 30 years later, we said why not, let's just do it.
DB: Are you happy with the way your career is going, or would you like to be as big as Stevie Ray Vaughan?
JT: Of course you always want to be as successful as you can possibly be. You want to be the guy who changes everything and leaves his mark. I saw what it did to Stevie, and it wasn't always that pleasant. I'm happy with the way the band is going, I think that's the thing you've got to be a little afraid of. I think that as long as you're taking incremental steps forward, and as long as you're not going backwards or staying in the same spot, that I think things are right with the world.
DB: Thanks for everything.
JT: It's been very nice talking with you.
Photography by R.J. Bianchino copyright © 2003 Moondog Productions
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